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The all or nothing phenomenon

Amidst our busy day today we carved out time for staff lunch and today I posed a discussion topic that was interesting. I knew I'd be preaching to the choir and we'd all be in agreement.

I've noticed a pattern with many people these days that when one member of the family is sick or away on business, the other members of the family take that as reason to stay home from church. Consider these scenarios that are completely fictional. I'm not speaking of anyone who wasn't there this past Sunday. Please don't wonder, "who's she talking about?" I'm talking purely in general terms here about what I see as a widespread happening.

Scenario 1: Husband goes on business trip on the weekend. Wife and kids who are still home don't go to church for this reason.

Scenario 2: Mr. and Mrs. Jones have three kids. Four out of five family members are feeling just fine, however one child is sick. Mrs. Jones plans to stay home from church to take care of said child. Instead of bringing the other two and coming to church, Mr. Jones just stays home.

Scenario 3: Mr. Jones has a cold. He is not terribly ill where he can't care for himself, he's just sneezing a lot and his head feels clogged up. So he decides to stay home from church. Mrs. Jones decides to just stay home with him and the three kids, even though they are all old enough to completely get themselves ready for church.

Has anybody else noticed this phenomenon? I will call it the "all or nothing phenomenon". Meaning, either all the family members are going to come to church, or none of them will.

It's very odd to me. I wasn't raised that way, nor have we raised our family that way so it's very hard for me to understand the behavior or way of thinking behind it. In times past I actually experienced it (with nightmare staff) where if the pastor-husband was away at a conference or missions trip, the wife would stay home with the kids and not come to church. For those who say, "it's too hard for them to bring the kids on their own, I just ask...what do you think single mothers or fathers do all the time? Doing it for one week is a piece of cake compared to what these folks do.

I am just curious about what my readers think...


Michele said…
I wonder that myself PD- hey if I can get Marcus together after a major meltdown at home and be at church - and on time to boot- anyone can show up with the remainder of kids etc etc. I do not get it either-
I may not be in the right frame of mind when I get there but by the time I leave I am.
Thanks be to God
DaNella Auten said…
Yeah well if one kid is sick the rest go to school... Yeah I could preach on this one all day. Reminds me of that old southern gospel song... Excuses
"Excuses you hear them everyday...
Well, a headache Sunday morning and a backache Sunday night.
But by worktime Monday morning, you're feeling quite alright.
While one of the children has a cold, "Pneumonia, do you suppose?"
Why the whole family had to stay home, just to blow that poor kid's nose."

Anonymous said…
It's understandable if one or more kids are sick (obviously, they can't stay at home alone!). But if your spouse is sick?!?!? Unless it's something like the person being on bedrest where they really need a second person there...I think a grown adult can handle being alone for a few hours with a runny nose! We wouldn't take a day off from work to care for a spouse who has the flu, would we?

Also sort of related to that...what's the point of showing up 30-45 minutes LATE for a church service? Are people really that disorganized? Do they think it doesn't matter because they're just going to church (much to the frustration of those who are trying to start a service with only half the people there!)? Do they really dislike praise and worship that much?

As a professor I know says on her syllabi each semester, "Being late/absent once in awhile happens to the best of us. Doing it repeatedly sends a message that you probably don't want to send."
Melissa Davis said…
This is one of many reasons I love you PD, because you say what many want to but dont have the nerve, Lol. Hey truth is truth!

Yes, I've seen this time and time again and often wondered myself but to be honest I have come to the conclusion that - some folk are just sitting and waiting for these very opportunities to stay home, I say opportunity because some actually think that they had a good excuse, some are but others are, well just an unexcused absence
Melissa said…
Ok so when did you turn into a fly and mount yourself on my walls?? Seriously Sean and I were just talking about this on Sunday!
So irritating!! A topic I believe needs to be addressed in all churches but HOW!?
Angie said…
In reality...playing the working mother advocate where both parents are in mgmt/supervision positions...excuses, excuses, I know....
Many families are exhausted and they are looking for any reason to get an extra day home on the weekend.
Is it right?
Not if it isn't a habit.
Is it wrong?
Only if it's a habit.
Angie, I see your viewpoint as I am often exhausted myself however I guess that is my what?

I happen to know all the commenters here personally and they are all multi-tasking working mothers (with exception of Pastor Leanne who is not a mother but a FT pastor) in FT ministry, management positions and some owning their own businesses, so they do understand the role you speak of. And some like Michele are in management and they are single Moms who press through and show up each time the doors are open with nobody to help her get there.

And I see our children's pastor's wife, Misty Mackley. Right now her husband has cancer and is in chemo treatments. Two weeks ago he was sick in the hospital on Sunday morning because he had caught a cold which is very dangerous with chemo. Obviously he was not at church. I didn't expect to see Misty or the kids there either and would have fully understood their absence as I thought they'd more than likely be at the hospital. But there they were on the second row of the service that morning. I'm telling you, I have to check that woman sometimes because I'm just sure she has wings!!! She's unbelievable in her commitment to the Lord, her family and the church and she works a FT job at Hillsborough Community College PLUS goes to college classes at night!

Maybe in your church you see this with the working mothers who are in management. I guess every church is different. In our situation, I find that those who have done this over the years in our church are not the working mothers in management positions who are burning the candle at both ends nor the single mothers. Every staff wife we ever had who did this was a SAHM. I don't say that to disparage SAHM' is just an observation.

I believe a lot of people share your viewpoint however they are not necessarily management positions but just Moms or Dads who are tired and want the day at home and this seems a plausible excuse. But what does it teach the kids? I've had staff actually tell me that before (we just want the day at home) and my response to that is, "we can give you LOTS of time at home, in fact, we can arrange for you to have weeks and weeks and weeks of time at home with nothing to do!" (In other words, resign the ministry if you don't want to come to church.)

It's just so foreign to me and difficult to understand.
Angie said…
Actually...most of the moms/wives in our church don't work. It's a common excuse that I get from the preschool mothers about why they do not attend church regularly, any church. They want their child in a Christian setting, but they think their time is already stretched beyond belief and can't imagine giving up their Sundays. Most of these mothers were raised in church and consider themselves Christians and are satisfied wi that...a tough crowd to reach.
Angie, that is EXACTLY the crowd I'm talking about! It is so frustrating. We don't have many of those left anymore...but used to have a lot of them and back then we had them on staff too. This was a major problem because if they see it in the staff members, all the more reason they think it is okay to live that way. I am not talking about people missing occasionally but as a habit.

Sometimes it seems the management women are much more faithful because they are simply used to multi-tasking and showing up. Just my theory.
Angie said…
I've been thinking of specific people over the past few days and you're right...the ones with the higher end jobs are usually the most committed, unless they're traveling. I can't imagine staff thinking they had the option of not attending, lol. We'd be gone in a heartbeat. A day off is a blessing around here :-)

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